Welcome, fellow Peggy Carter fans, to the first of my weekly Agent Carter posts for this season! Instead of doing a traditional episode review/analysis, I’m going to take a different path with these posts. Each week, I’m going to focus on something I learned from Peggy (or any of these fantastic characters) and explain how that lesson manifested itself throughout the episode (or pair of episodes, in this week’s case). I can’t wait to discuss what looks to be an excellent second season of this wonderful show with all of you, so don’t be shy—dive right into the comments section as soon as you’re done reading! And if you’re looking for more thoughts on this show, I highly recommend checking out MGcircles!
Kindness is power.
The Marvel Universe is filled with so many powerful people that it’s easy for us to focus only on the flashiest powers and stereotypically strongest people. But, in doing that, we lose sight of the beauty that comes from finding strength and power in unexpected places and people. There are so many different ways a person can be strong, and perhaps one of the most underappreciated powers a person can possess is the power to openly show kindness toward another human being. Agent Carter has always taken great pains to show strength in all its many forms, and that continued in this second season premiere with poignant examples of the value of kindness and the power of those who offer it to others.
The first new character we’re introduced to in this premiere is Ana Jarvis (played perfectly by Lottie Verbeek, who I also adored on Outlander), and Ana is the living embodiment of the idea that kindness is power. As a Jewish woman living in Hungary at the outset of World War II, Ana’s life couldn’t have been easy. But it was clear to anyone watching this season premiere that those hardships never turned her into someone cold, angry, or afraid. Instead, from the moment we met her, Ana lit up the screen like a firecracker.
At first glance, Peggy and Ana couldn’t appear more different: The former is like a strong handshake, while the latter is like a warm hug. While Peggy is a private person, Ana delights in open displays of affection. But neither is made to look “wrong” for their differences in demeanor. In fact, those differences allowed them to serve as wonderful complements instead of adversaries. Ana’s openness allowed her to fill the void in Peggy’s life left by Angie’s absence. She empathized with Peggy as Peggy mourned another loss. She reminded Peggy that seeking connection is a good thing—even if it doesn’t always last. And she never once seemed jealous or frustrated that her husband was spending time with a beautiful woman. Ana is a confident woman who’s confident in her marriage, and from that confidence came her ability to see Peggy not as a rival but a friend. And a friendship built on garter holsters and whiskey seems like exactly the kind of friendship Peggy needed to find in Los Angeles.
Peggy also seems poised to find friendship in an incredibly unlikely place: with Daniel Sousa’s current girlfriend, Violet. I loved the way this episode framed Peggy and Violet’s first meeting by putting us in Daniel’s shoes, nervous about how such a meeting might go—especially because we’d just experienced Peggy’s heartbreak upon discovering he had a girlfriend. But, of course, Agent Carter wouldn’t succumb to such trite conflicts. Instead, Daniel (and the audience) were treated to the sight of Peggy and Violet laughing and sharing cookies. The most impressive thing about that moment was that it was exactly what it seemed to be at face value: two women connecting and enjoying each other’s company. Neither was faking being nice only to become jealous or petty later. It would have been easy to include a moment of Violet getting angry with Daniel for canceling dinner to help Peggy. And on another show, Peggy might have said something disparaging about Violet’s penchant for bringing people baked goods or her bright and bubbly personality. But on this show, there seemed to be nothing but respect and kindness between those two women.
Kindness seemed to radiate off of Violet. (Some might wonder if she’s too kind to be real, but I’m in the camp that doesn’t want her to be a villain hiding in plain sight—that would be too cliché for my taste.) She’s the kind of woman who brings cookies to her boyfriend’s office, who doesn’t get mad when he has to cancel plans for work, who waits for him with breakfast after he pulls an all-nighter, and who’s quick with an “I love you” when it’s needed. And we’re not supposed to see her as a sucker or a sap because of that. We’re supposed to see her as a good woman with her own set of unique strengths—one of them being her kind and gentle heart.
There are some who might argue that having a gentle heart makes Violet different from Peggy, whose heart seems much tougher and war-torn. However, this premiere reminded me that Peggy can have a soft heart, too, and it softens the most around people like her—people who society wants to devalue. She’s not one of those women who believes she doesn’t need female friends. She sees her fellow women—no matter how different—as people of value. She never defined Daniel by his disability. We all know she started to fall for Steve Rogers when he was still a scrawny soldier. And, in this pair of episodes, we saw her gravitate toward another person society wanted to keep in his place: Jason Wilkes. The scene in which Wilkes described the people who wanted to stop him from dreaming because of his race broke my heart, and it was clear in that scene that Peggy found another kindred spirit. That’s what this show is really all about: people exceeding society’s expectations and redefining their value on their own terms.
With Jason, Peggy saw someone who faced even harsher discrimination because of his race than she did because of her gender. (That scene in the little store made me so uncomfortable, but that was exactly the point.) And the kindness she showed in defending him and encouraging him to open up about his past ignited the spark of attraction between them. While it might have ended before it really began (Although does anyone believe he’s really dead?), what mattered in that moment was that Peggy was able to open her heart again and find power in doing so.
Peggy’s slowly opening heart is going to be a major part of this season, if this premiere is any indication. And it seems Daniel is who Peggy most wants to open her heart to—although that’s not quite as easy now as it could have been back in New York. But no matter the complications between them, what matters the most is that—when Peggy needs him—Daniel is going to be there for her. This episode proved that. He worries about her in a special way, and it’s clear he means something special to her, too. (Did anyone else melt at the “Everything is through the first door on your right. You can’t miss him.” line?) They’ve shown each other kindness, support, and respect when others in their field (and society in general) tried to downplay their contributions and value.
I loved the moment when Daniel found Peggy after tragedy struck at Isodyne Energy because it had a wonderful undercurrent of romantic tension (Just hug already!) but also genuine care. Because that’s who Daniel is. He’s kind. He’s the person who asks someone if they’re okay before asking anything else. (And look at Peggy’s face after he asks; it’s clear most people don’t bother to ask her that.) He’s the kind of person to tell Peggy to go home and sleep—not with condescending authority but with sincere concern. Like Peggy, Daniel takes down bad guys and saves the day often, but his real power comes from his ability to be kind toward people who aren’t often shown kindness, and that includes Peggy.
Kindness is power, and so is having a heart open to accepting kindness. At times in Season One, Peggy’s heart wasn’t always open to accepting other people’s kindness. But this season, we’ve already seen Peggy accept the kindness shown to her by many people—from Ana and Violet to Jason and Daniel. It’s that combination of showing and accepting kindness that makes someone a hero who can find strength in moments of vulnerability. Those are the heroes Agent Carter celebrates every week, and I can’t wait to see how those heroes develop as this season progresses.
If you love Peggy Carter, you might be interested in writing a letter to her for The Fan Mail Project! More details about this project can be found here.
The comments looks so lonely . . .
I’ll be jumping in — as soon as I get a chance to watch. I just didn’t want you to think you were writing into the void. Pithy comments to come!
Or, I’ll just ramble like I always do. 🙂
You’re just the absolute sweetest. “Writing into the void” was exactly how I’ve been feeling lately, so I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see you reach out to make me feel better. I can’t wait to read your thoughts when you get the chance to watch!
“Peggy’s slowly opening heart is going to be a major part of this season” – hitting the nail on the head as always. Not only that, but I think it will be the key into figuring the resolution of this case. As another heroine in which we are all fond of, sometimes it takes breaking down our walls to fully realize how much we’re missing in plain sight. Great recap, Katie!
Thanks, Coral! I love the idea that lowering her walls and opening her heart is going to make Peggy an even better agent and help her solve this case. I’m always a fan of my favorite leading ladies learning that letting other people in can make them stronger.
I liked season one but didn’t love it (I blame my lack of pre-existing attachment or knowledge of Peggy) but after seeing the first two episodes of season two, I feel like it has the potential to be one of my favorite shows each week.
While I adore the relationship Peggy has with both Daniel and Jarvis and will likely go on about why they are so awesome at a later point in the season, today I want to talk about the two new ladies and why I’m excited for their inclusion.
I have to start with Ana Jarvis, specifically the actress who portrays her. I missed the casting announcement for her, I guess, so I was thrilled to see Lotte Verbeek in yet another awesome role. In both Outlander and The Borgias, she’s played a fascinating woman who tends to befriend other women in really interesting ways (which, if you’re going to be typecast, is a great role to be stuck in) and I feel like Ana is going to be much the same. I love the warmth and energy she radiates and the quickness with which she accepted Peggy into her life. She’s important to her husband and that made her important to her. Not to keep an eye on her and keep her away, but because she’s family now. Peggy and Jarvis have a relationship that Ana can’t replicate but she never feels the need to. She knows herself and her husband and is comfortable in the bond they share. I am really looking forward to seeing more scenes of just Ana and Peggy bonding in future episodes. And more of Jarvis chasing Bernard, but that is beside the point.
I am joining you in the belief that Violet isn’t a spy simply because I don’t want her to be. I want her to be as genuinely nice and understanding as she appears. Yes, that’s going to make it hurt more because I do like the idea of a romantic Peggy and Daniel, but until that comes about, I’m going to enjoy the relationship she has with Daniel and root for an initially awkward but ultimately fulfilling friendship with Peggy.
I can totally understand how S1 of this show might have been hard to get into without previous knowledge of/love for all things Peggy, especially because her relationship with Steve was such a huge factor in that season. But I think this season will be much more about Peggy and these characters moving into the future instead of being defined by the past, which I think will make this season even more enjoyable for you.
And it helps that this season also seems to be populated with fantastic female characters. Ana Jarvis is perfection. Warmth and joy radiate off of her, and I love how much she loves—not just her husband, but also Peggy and life itself. You’re right about Lottie Verbeek playing women who form unlikely but incredibly supportive friendships with other women. It’s not a bad thing to be typecast as at all. 😉
I enjoyed the style of this review! And a great message. It was awesome to see so many female interactions within the two hours, and I agree that Ana is lovely addition to the show. The garter that was also a holster has to have been my favorite scene of the night.
One of the other things that I enjoy is how prominent Howard Stark is as a character despite not being in most of the episodes. Hes an easy target for jokes, but I love it. And I think it was a needed balance to all the kindness that you spoke of. Give me jokes at the expense of rich playboys any day.
I am interested to see where the show goes this season. They have strong characters with great personal interactions, but I find my interest fading when it comes to the actual plot (I was guilty of fast forwarding through plot last season). I hope it can keep me engaged, because I do love Peggy, and I am sure she has plenty more great lessons to teach us.
I have to start this off by saying that I’m with you on being much more interested in this show’s characters and relationships than the plot. That’s why I chose to format these posts the way I did, so I can focus on what actually matters to me when it comes to this show, and that’s the fantastic themes that manifest themselves in very compelling characters. Which, if I had to choose, is something I’d want more than a perfectly plotted show any day of the week. (As we all know from my OUAT posts.)
I’m also 100% with you on loving jokes at Howard Stark’s expense. And they’re always funnier when delivered with that dry, British sense of humor that both Peggy and Jarvis have in spades. I’m looking forward to the idea that this season will have more moments of humor, because I think James D’Arcy and Hayley Atwell have excellent comedic chemistry together.
I’m so glad I have your reviews for this show to look forward now and I especially love the fact that they’re going to be focused on lessons and themes because that’s not talked about nearly enough in media so the fact that you’re focusing on it is perfect. This is perfect and I seriously cannot wait to get to know Ana Jarvis more. She’s so delightful and the way she welcomes Peggy is wonderful. We need more people like that in real life!
Thanks, my dear! I love talking about themes and the lessons we take in from the media we consume, and this show always seems to have wonderful themes and messages to discuss. It felt like the right way to go about it. 🙂
Let me add my love for this approach. I think it’s great that you’re trying something different — and it really works for this show.
Like you, I was incredibly happy to see the writer’s avoid the women-as-adversaries trap in both of Peggy’s new female relationships. (I also have undying love for Rose.) Yes, world, women can be friends with one another. We are not all tearing each other’s eyes out over men. (Get over yourselves, guys.) It was refreshing and real. I really enjoyed the Peggy-Jarvis dynamic last season. Adding Ana into the mix? That is just brilliant. I completely understand why Jarvis was so insistent last season on not disappointing his wife and why he would go to the lengths he did to save her.
Violet almost seems too good to be true. (I really do hope she’s what she seems.) For me, what kept her real was that flash of concern/worry in her eyes right before she said, “I love you,” to Daniel. (And yes, there might have been a wee bit of meltiness on my part at the “Everything is through the first door on right . . .” as well as when Daniel semi-trashed his office in concern over Peggy.) I also liked seeing Peggy making a special effort to tell Daniel she was happy for him.
— I think there should be at least one scene in every episode at the Dunbar. It should last at least one song.
— I may have gotten a little too much enjoyment out of the fact that Jack’s “I’m not afraid of you” didn’t work as well as Peggy’s did.
— Jarvis v. Bernard (i.e. the devil in pink). Yes, I’d like to join Ana for drinks while we watch that play out.
— I would also like a Jarvis travelogue on the quirks of L.A. (They put avocado on everything!)
— I am also on board for random Howard Stark jokes. (Is that a mirror?)
Thanks, friend! I’m so happy you’ll be joining us for these posts, and I’m also so happy you like the format I chose. I wanted to do something different because of how special this show is, and I hope it works.
Everything you said about women supporting other women and not always competing with each other is so spot-on. It’s a truth I wish more pieces of media embraced, but that just makes me even more grateful for those that do.
I also would like to echo your request for more scenes at the Dunbar. What an awesome location. I love some great 1940s glamour. And I will join you (and Ana) for drinks and a viewing of Bernard vs. Jarvis at any time!
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I loved how you focused on the importance and power of kindness. It reminded me of Hayley Atwell’s line in Cinderella: “Have courage and be kind.” I think that’s what Peggy’s been learning to do this year, and it is really beautiful to see. 🙂
Also, Ana is amazing. That is all.